The importance of an unknown Japanese art and its influence.
In the eighth contrary of our era the dilettante of the Japanese court established the tea cult and the play of ‘listening to incense’.
In the fourteenth century they produced a drama scarcely less subtle: the Noh.
I like a lot of Werner Herzog’s works, especially his newer documentaries where, it seems to me, he is trying to seek (and express) the essence of human soul.
One of the documentaries, Tokya-Ga, is about the Japanese director Ozu.
Intrigued, I watched Ozu’s films. They were beautiful and subtle.
Round about the same time I was reading Ezra Pound’s translations.
He published the translations of Noh Plays.
It struck me that there was a similarity between the Noh (influencing Pound) and Ozu’s works (influencing Herzog).
My favourite Ozu film, Late Spring, does in fact feature a Noh Play.
Extracts from the introduction to the Noh by Ezra Pound and Ernest Fellanosa:
The originator of dramas: the miracle plays:
The miracle plays that preceded Shakespeare’s in England were acted in the fields joining the the churches, and latter in the courtyards of nobles.
The miracle plays that preceded the Noh, and even in the Noh themselves, were enacted, first in the gardens of the temples or on dry riverbeds joining the temples, and latter in the courtyards of the dame.
[Unlike Greek or even Shakespearean dramas] today’s Noh are enacted the same way as 500 years ago; even the leading actors are blood descendants of the very men who created this drama.
From a discussion with Umewaka Minoru:
The excellence of Noh lay in emotion, not in action or externals. Therefore there were no accessories, as in the “theatres”. The pure “Spirit” (tamashii) was what Noh worked in, so it was higher than the other arts. If a Noh actor acted his best, Umewake could read his character. The actor would not conceal it. The spirit must out, the “whole man” he said. Therefore he always instructed his sons to be moral pure and true in all their daily lives, otherwise they could not become the greatest actors.
Noh has been the purification of the Japanese soul for over 500 years. Kobori Enshu classified the fifteen virtues of Noh, among which he counted mental and bodily health as one, calling it”Healing without medicine. Danicing is especially known, by its circulation of the blood to keep off the disease of old age”.
These plays are full of ghosts, and the ghosts of psychology is amazing.
The wholesomeness of the dances, rituals and miracle words; I ponder about the higher state of consciousness one might achieve when taking part.